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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Staunton, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Barnas Sears, Woodrow Park, & Sears Hill Neighborhood

 
 
Barnas Sears, Woodrow Park, & Sears Hill Neighborhood Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 16, 2019
1. Barnas Sears, Woodrow Park, & Sears Hill Neighborhood Marker
Inscription.  Dr. Barnas Sears, a career educator and Baptist minister, was nearly 65 years old in 1867 when he resigned as president of Brown College in Providence, Rhode Island, and moved to Staunton.

He became the agent of the Peabody Educational Fund created by George Peabody of Massachusetts to dispense funds throughout the Southern and Southwestern states to establish free public education after the Civil War.

From the frame Victorian cottage constructed on the hill overlooking the train station, Dr. Sears travelled across much of the nation from Virginia to Texas for 13 years making grants to schools of over $3.4 million "for the intellectual, moral, or industrial education among the young."


Sears House
(NOTE: This house is a private residence and not part of the park.)

This board-and-batten house was constructed in 1866 by Dr. Robert Madison and sold in the next year to Barnas Sears who added the tower. The dwelling reflects the influence of the picturesque cottage and villa designs of the 19th century horticulturist, A. J. Downing. His nationally published work in 1850, The Architecture of Country
Marker detail: Dr. Barnas Sears image. Click for full size.
2. Marker detail: Dr. Barnas Sears
Houses
, widely popularized this new style of domestic building in America. This example was constructed in the Tuscan villa style of a bracketed cottage.

Sears Hill Neighborhood
The Sears Hill Neighbbrhood largely developed over a 65-year-span. Period newspapers recount stories of community celebrations punctuated by bonfires and cannon shots from Sears Hill. In the early 19th century, the area was also noted as Garber's Hill, Stuart's Hill, and Oak Hill. Early homes belonged to Barnas Sears, Newton Argenbright, and J.J. Lad. Surrounding properties were owned and later developed in three distinct periods by prominent Staunton landowners Jedediah Hotchkiss, Alexander H.H. Stuart, Captain G.G. Gooch, Captain James and Caroline Marquis, and H.L. Partlow.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the lots and streets of Sears Hill took shape upon subdivision and sale of larger land holdings. The neighborhood developed with a grid pattern of streets, bounded by brick sidewalks and alleyways. Constructed mostly of wood frame, the homes are vernacular adaptations of popular architectural styles. Shingle clad gables, hip roofs with bracketed eaves, clapboard siding, and single-story porches with turned-and pattern-sawn balustrades all relate to Victorian styles.

As noted in the 1885 Historical Atlas of Augusta County, Virginia, engineers,
Marker detail: Sears House<br>located on Sears Hill<br>high above the marker image. Click for full size.
3. Marker detail: Sears House
located on Sears Hill
high above the marker
auctioneers, printers, teachers, watchmakers, carpenters, cigar makers and policemen occupied the homes in the neighborhood. During this period, small groceries, churches, and a volunteer fire company all were established specifically serving Sears Hill. Between 1910 and 1929, Sears Hill experienced its final phase of development with the subdivision of the Marquis property and construction of bungalow and foursquare styled homes.

Woodrow Park
This four acre wooded hillside was purchased by the City of Staunton in 1927 for approximately $9,000 and included the historic Sears House. A local citizen, Charles Catlett, previously encouraged the City to purchase the Sears Hill property to he acquired as a possible future school site. He had deeded the Betsy Bell property to the City to be used as a public park and his family was very interested and involved in several similar civic projects.

By 1936, the City had cleared some of the acreage for a playground and in the 27th Annual Report of the City of Staunton, the area was known as Woodrow Park for the first time in local records.

It is unclear how the park was named, but there are two local theories. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who was born in Staunton, was the son of Rev. Joseph Ruggles Wilson and Jessie Woodrow Wilson. Her maiden name of Woodrow became the middle name of President Thomas
Marker detail: Staunton, Va. Sanborn Map from March 1929 image. Click for full size.
Courtesy of EDR, Shelton, CN
4. Marker detail: Staunton, Va. Sanborn Map from March 1929
A section of the Staunton, Va. Sanborn Map from March 1929 shows part of the Sears Hill neighborhood. The Sears House and Woodrow Park also have been labeled and highlighted on this graphic.
Woodrow Wilson and might be the inspiration for the park's name. However, the word "woodrow" also means "row of trees" and would be appropriate for the large stand of great oak trees within the park.

• Historical information from files of Historic Staunton Foundation and the City of Staunton Department of Parks & Recreation.
• Sanborn Map image courtesy of EDR, Shelton, CN
• Text Edits by Katharine Brown & Nancy Sorrells
• Plaque design by Frazier Associates, Architects & Planners.

 
Location. 38° 8.826′ N, 79° 4.357′ W. Marker is in Staunton, Virginia. Marker can be reached from Middlebrook Avenue (Virginia Route 252) west of South Augusta Street, on the left when traveling south. Marker is located along the walkway on the south (uphill) side of the Sears Hill Bridge, behind the Staunton Railroad Depot. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1 Middlebrook Avenue, Staunton VA 24401, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Sears Hill Bridge (within shouting distance of this marker); History of the C&O Station (within shouting distance of this marker); Staunton (within shouting distance of this marker); Staunton’s Wharf Historic District History (within shouting distance of this marker); Main Passenger Terminal
Barnas Sears & Sears Hill Neighborhood Marker<br>(<i>wide view looking east from the walkway</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 16, 2019
5. Barnas Sears & Sears Hill Neighborhood Marker
(wide view looking east from the walkway)
(within shouting distance of this marker); Dr. Alexander Humphreys (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Lewis Creek Watershed (about 600 feet away); Augusta County World War I Memorial Tablet (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Staunton.
 
Also see . . .
1. Barnas Sears (Wikipedia). Sears was the general agent of the Peabody Education Fund who was sent to Staunton, Virginia, by George Peabody to offer leadership in Public Education. He settled in Staunton because of the easy access to the railroad. (Submitted on May 28, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 

2. Sears House (Wikipedia). … features long, shallow-scrolled roof brackets, a three-bay arcaded front porch, and a three-story octagonal-ended tower covered by a shallow hipped roof with dentiled cornice. It was the home of Dr. Barnas Sears, a prominent educator, who owned and occupied the house from 1867 until his death. (Submitted on May 28, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
 
Categories. ArchitectureEducationParks & Recreational Areas
 
Sears Hill Bridge (<i>wide view across Staunton • looking north from near marker</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 16, 2019
6. Sears Hill Bridge (wide view across Staunton • looking north from near marker)
 

More. Search the internet for Barnas Sears, Woodrow Park, & Sears Hill Neighborhood.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on May 28, 2019. This page originally submitted on May 27, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 63 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on May 28, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.
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